Viral selfie shows the loving bond between orphaned gorillas and the park ranger who raised them

There are many kind people in the world who dedicate their lives to helping wild animals in need. But the job is even more important when they’re working with animals who have been orphaned.

These caretakers become like parents to these animals, forming a close, trusting bond.

And recently, viral photos of one park ranger with his favorite gorillas show how amazing these bonds can be.

Mathieu Shamavu is a park ranger at Virunga National Park in the Congo, and serves as a caretaker for the park’s mountain gorilla orphanage.

With no parents to raise them, the gorillas have had to rely on Mathieu for care and protection. And over time, it’s clear that the gorillas have grown to love and trust him.

Two young orphaned female gorillas, Ndakazi and Ndeze, have a particularly close bond with their protector.

“I’m still close to them and they feel good,” Mathieu told The Dodo.

There are many fun photos of Mathieu monkeying around with his favorite primates on the park’s Instagram. They show just how close their bond really is.

But one perfect shot really caught the public’s attention. Mathieu takes a “selfie” with Ndakazi and Ndeze, and, seemingly aware he’s taking a picture, look right at the camera and even seem to pose.

It’s a pretty remarkable photo—so much so that, when it went viral online, people couldn’t even believe it was real!

Some commenters said it looks like a photoshop or even two people in gorilla costumes. As the photo went viral, Virunga National Park had to clarify that it was 100% real, and this is just how their gorillas behave.

“YES, it’s real!” they wrote on Instagram. “Those gorilla gals are always acting cheeky so this was the perfect shot of their true personalities!”

The disbelief is largely due to the fact that both gorillas are standing upright, something primates can do comfortably for short bursts of time, but still a rare sight for a photo.

Innocent Mburanumwe, the park’s deputy director, also believes the gorillas’ upright poses was a result of being raised by humans.

“I was very surprised to see it… so it’s very funny,” he told the BBC. “It’s very curious to see how a gorilla can imitate a human and stand up.”

While the viral selfie shows the fun, familial bond between these caretakers and their gorillas, the job is far from fun and games.

These park rangers have to protect the gorillas from dangerous poachers, and often come into conflict with the armed rebel militias in the region.

According to BBC, five rangers were killed in the park last year, and 130 rangers have been killed since 1996.

But with gorillas an endangered species, protecting them is an important job. We’re glad that these caretakers dedicate their lives to helping these animals — and even give them a family.

What beautiful photos! It’s clear that these gorillas really love and trust Mathieu and know they’re safe and protected. Keep up the great work!

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